Let’s talk honestly about the crisis in NZ news media and what the Government needs to do to solve it

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All of a sudden we are talking about the state of media again because The Spinoff published an article and Duncan Garner had cry on TV last week. Both are on the same spectrum of self interest masquerading as social good.

No one is happy.

Clare Curran understood the important need for a strong public broadcaster focused on light rather than ratings heat, and she got killed off as a Minister before she had any chance of implementing real change.

With the rise of fake news on social media and an industry that can’t afford to keep running there needs to be structural change not bullshit tinkering. The NZ media landscape now split into a duopoly is another market failure thanks to our neoliberal economic settings.

Here are the problems and here are the solutions that Kris Faafoi should seriously consider.

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PROBLEMS:

  • The NZ population is too small: The simple truth is that our population is too damned small to be able to support an advertiser based media approach. It’s always been too small, it will always be too small. Advertiser based news media will never be able to sustain itself and the sooner the Government accepts that the sooner they can move onto some real solutions.
  • Financialization of media: The problem with the large corporate’s isn’t that they can’t make money, they are owned by vulture capitalists who are bogged down by debt so that the profits made only barely pay for interest charges on the debt. They will always be in this position so simply showing money at them won’t solve that problem.
  • Public Broadcasters that aren’t Public Broadcasters: TVNZ gets all the cover of a Government agency with none of the social obligation. They don’t have to make a return, got all their assets for free and yet they still churn out bullshit programming of the lowest common denominator. What the fuck is ‘Have you been paying attention’? Seven Sharp is a  sad, sad joke where nothing of any seriousness is ever debated. Breakfast on TVNZ is the best quality TV in the country but that’s only because John Campbell is the best public broadcaster we have. As climate change threatens us, economic apocalypse about to strike and war simmering TVNZ continues to keep the sleepy hobbits of muddle Nu Zilind blind, deaf and dumb.
  • NZ on Air elite echo chamber cliques: One of the worst hybrid mutations has been the NZ on Air elite echo chamber cliques who now just pass around content in one large loop of the exact same voices. The Spinoff to the Villainesse to Fairfax to RNZ to the Herald to Newsroom, the little NZ on Air elite echo chamber cliques have actually killed off diversity of opinion for woke musings to tick identity politic boxes. This creation of elite opinions more focused on pure temple exclusion are what build the Brexit and Trump wins.
  • Facebook & Google drain advertising dollars: The biggest problem facing media is the simple truth that the entire economic model of mass media has been crippled by Facebook and Google stealing all the advertising dollars while returning nothing whatsoever other than  platform for white supremacists and woke social media lynch mobs.

SOLUTIONS: 

  • TVNZ become a real Public Broadcaster again: TVOne becomes a commercial free 24 hour news channel that utilises an expanded RNZ/TVNZ joint newsroom and TV2 becomes a 50% NZ content channel that allows sponsorship but not advertising. Removing TVNZ from direct commercial competition will create extra breathing room for the other media networks while boosting news journalism and NZ made content. It won’t be cheap but it would create real change.
  • Replace NZ on Air echo chambers with ‘Read between the Flags’ funding campaign: The current nepotism that dictates so much of the echo chamber clique means the same elite opinions passed around as universal truth which leads to a lack of diversity and the funding of bullshit. Rather than writing cheques for their mates, NZ on Air should be responsible for funding the ‘Read between the Flags’ campaign. We all get the ‘Swim between the flags’ concept of beach safety, ‘Read between the flags’ would help social media users who get sucked into passing around fake news that the source they are using is ‘within the flags’ of good journalistic practise. To get a ‘flag’ each domestic media organisation would have to conform to a set of journalistic standards . The money wouldn’t be handed out for specific content, it would just be a base funding mechanism to help support a plurality of media within the NZ media landscape that readers could trust. To be eligible you would need to be a NZ owned media company and conform to best journalistic standards and practise.
  • Facebook-Google media tax: The real problem for large corporates in NZ is that social media and digital media have stripped them of their revenue while providing nothing in return. We should have a very specific ‘Journalism tax’ that is applied and ring fenced on Facebook and Google, this tax would be sent to those national network media who qualify for it.

Making TVNZ a public broadcaster would free up an enormous amount of advertising for the rest of the media environment, a ‘Read between the Flags’ public funding model would succour media diversity while lifting media standards and the Facebook-Google tax would be distributed directly to large media Goliath’s so that they could continue to be profitable.

The Government has to restructure the economic modelling of the media so that they can independently continue without needing to curry favour with the Government of the day.

25 COMMENTS

  1. Good article, I think your diagnosis is spot on especially re elite cliques. I don’t want to be a tax collector who redistributes aid to the large corporate goliaths though, I don’t see why you would. Since when did we care about them? We could be decentralizing and democratizing the sources instead for instance? I don’t believe in “businesses on the benefit” as they call it in some circles.

    As for the concept of the Trust Flags, Approved Entity Flag system you mentioned, I don’t believe in dictating orthodoxy in media because I prefer creative citizen journalism, difference, choice and chaotic competition. Hemming in the swimmers with flags? could end up more like a fish farm, or a pig pen. Never trust someone who says “trust me”. Abhor the shepherds.

  2. Every country which proclaims to be a ‘democracy’ must have a government run media no matter how small, or big, that country is.
    The instant commercial media pretends to be unbiased, we should all know by now that they’re lying to us. Any and all commercial media will always chase/be controlled by, those whom have the most money and will bend to where the money tells them to.
    The problem with a government media that’s not closely watched by us, the public, is that the first thing to happen to it is that it’s robbed of its soul by lobbyists from commercial media whispering sweet little toxins into the ears of politicians to hijack public msm down any dark alleyways then suffocate it to death with dreary, quasi-neoliberal logical fallacies the likes of which seeps from kath ryans cake hole.
    Radio New Zealand and The Listener have both been assimilated into the Beast and the Beast serves its masters reliably well. That’s why homelessness and child poverty. That’s why some people own Ferrari’s while others live in their cars. That’s why we have a culturally desolate countryside of farmers working hard or suicide-ing knowing urban people hate on them. They, and we, are all the victims of elaborate propaganda beamed at us by a corrupted public msm to line the pockets of a riche elite.

  3. And no mention of the 40-50million a year that goes into Maori TV….no adverts, so not commercial driven. No viewer figures allowed, so TVNZ and RNZ that are inherently left leaning are NOT left enough/independent for you then get the magnifying glass on them but Maori TV that also gets public money is untouchable?

    • So true. Where’s the media chasing down the PM about Labours Rape Culture? Yet Key tugs a pony tail and the media lose their shit!
      Kiwibuild silence? Why?
      Genter using her Minister Post to threaten councils?

      All that in just the past week…

      • Key assaulted a waitress repeatedly, palmed it off as jolly japes and hilarious shenanigans and then attempted to placate her with a couple of bottles of plonk. Meanwhile, Granny Herald’s Rachel Glucina ran interference for him.

        He got away with it because he was John Key, not because he was innocent of wrongdoing. But by all means, let’s reduce it to “tugging a ponytail”, because if you or I did that we’d more than likely be having an awkward conversation with the local constabulary.

  4. Cannabis misinformation is whats really pissing me off with our media.
    So currently a bill is in the mix about referendum rules about avertising and information sources but until that comes into effect the media is going rampant, the referendum is already lost at this rate of bullshit they are spreading, polls are indicating support is declining because of this misinformation campaign, yet there is nothing to counter it, sure we can comment on social media but that is still a limited audience while the likes of Bob McKroskrie get opportunities to spread his rubbish based on pseudo science and skewed stats.
    Even after this cannabis study is meant to finish I can see the media announce it breifly then forget it immediately. Its something I have seen for decades now.

    • Just like the CGT debate, the left refuse to get off the stool before throwing in the towel. There has been deafening silence from the government on this issue, and in this void, anti legalization commentators and the like fill the void with opinion and often debunked nonsense. I have no doubt that the referendum will fail to pass, and it’s because those who support legalization refuse to fight for it.

  5. So Biased and sad In the Media in this Country Tova O Brien is sad as Hosking Garner Richardson and the rest of them and do Forget Du Plessis Allan and Soper.

  6. NZ is now a corrupted country as bad as anywhere in the world could be now because of the entire open border lack of vetting any criminal enterprise from settig up any bussiness in NZ, made easy during the national John Key Government and now made worse by lax rules that leave the open door poolicy in place today.

  7. As the comments by “I’m Right” demonstrate, people on both sides of the aisle are dissatisfied with the current media environment. The question we need to be asking is, what does a democratic media environment look like in the digital era?

    To figure that out, it might be helpful to remind ourselves what the media was like before the mainstream adoption of the net in the 1990s:
    * centralized: the need to own a printing press or a broadcast tower and license to distribute media to the public-at-large, meant that a handful of large government and business entities could act as gatekeepers over the boundaries of acceptable public debate.
    * national and regional: access to overseas media was mainly through syndication of their content by NZ broadcasters and publishers, but we had a much richer regional media landscape, with many local papers, local radio broadcasts, and even local TV stations.
    * ad-driven or government funded: these were the only two ways to pool enough funds to run, or get access to, mass media.

    What’s interesting is how little has actually changed in the 20 years since net-based media networks like Indymedia kicked off the social media revolution by exhorting activists to “become the media”. Central control of “cloud” servers has been added to the already centralized printing presses and broadcast towers. Corporate philanthropy has been added to government grants and ads as the only ways to get the professional production values and promotion usually required to get a large audience. People’s consumption of what we used to call “tabloid” media (heavily biased papers, activist publications, and conspiracy magazines), and its use in propaganda exercises, gets much more attention and hand-wringing than it used to, but is otherwise mostly unchanged.

    The more significant changes are that the public now have much more direct access to overseas media channels, both “mainstream” and “tabloid”. Smaller businesses now promote themselves directly through their own websites, and presences on corporate social media and review sites like TripAdvisor, instead of advertising in mass media. A big chunk of the remaining (mostly corporate) ad spends have been hoovered up by a handful of US corporations who successfully re-centralized and monetized social media. The combined result of all this is declining attention and funding for local and regional media, at the scale where people have some ability to fact-check what they read, hear, or watch. Given that, as Bomber says, NZ is a snall media market (smaller than the small Chinese city I currently live in), this die-off of local media is in danger of spreading to the country as a whole.

    At this point I’m really not sure what the solutions might be. But I’m confident that to choose the right ones, we need to be very clear about which problems we are trying to solve.

    • Danyl Strype-” The question we need to be asking is, what does a democratic media environment look like in the digital era?”

      Easy question. Silicon Valley gets woke and goes broke. Then the kids destroys them and make there own social media platforms. That’s the nature of falling costs of production.

  8. I personally have no issue with Richardson. At least he has the fortitude to own up and say he’s a dyed on the wall National fanboy. It’s those in our media who hold significant biases but say they are neutral and independent that are the real threats, e.g Garner and Tova.

    • Concur with what you and Danyl and MickeyBoyle have said.
      Good luck with your case btw Martyn.
      One piece of advice.Don’t call them porcine in courtroom.You do deserve to win. Don’t blow the pie in anger. No matter the provocation.
      Jax

  9. The Mainstream media in NZ has steadily turned to trash. Curran has been a total failure. Labour has reneged on Public broadcasting again. RNZ is becoming like TVNZ …EEK . Switching it off.

  10. The reason free-to-air television is so bad, is so that consumers are forced to pay-for-content providers

  11. RNZ un ashamed of its news feed direct from propaganda USA.

    Look at the RNZ board, governance and management.

    Lies lies and little balance.

    Making NZ a USA satellite in dumb-ed down public perception of what the USA is doing to the world.

  12. Bomber i couldn’t agree more with your analysis.
    I have emailed Jacinda and Kris Faafoi and included a link to this post in the hope they might read it.
    As part of our democracy and human rights we deserve un biased non corporate public broadcasting and i don’t care about the social revolution and how it has changed things.
    There is still room for a publicly funded news source that doesn’t insult your intelligence every hour of every day.

  13. NZ Media is junk, we need some good investigative journalism.

    How does Horeskin keep his ratings so high the guy is a little jerk ?

  14. The Serial Ponytail Puller had a dream run with the media.

    They loved him. Most popular PM ever in the History of NZ

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